Four Continents and 37,000 Miles in Two Weeks: Qantas A380 First Class Melbourne to Singapore

Trip Report Index


After a most enjoyable visit to the first class lounge, it was time for the only stressful part of my travel day — trying to actually board the plane.

I had waited about 10 minutes beyond the initial boarding call in the lounge to head to the gate, though that only resulted in longer queues. As I mentioned in a previous installment, the issue with A380 boarding is that first class is on the lower deck (along with economy), while business class and premium economy are on the upper deck. That means that first class has to queue with economy, putting me in line behind about 300 people.


Departure gate


Hey there!

The other issue is that there was no first class jet bridge, which meant I had to wait in the long coach jet bridge. Of course that’s not a problem in the slightest, since I knew the upcoming 23 hours would be utmost enjoyable.


And a close up of her

Qantas Airways 9
Melbourne (MEL) – Singapore (SIN)
Tuesday, May 24
Depart: 3:30PM
Arrive: 9:20PM
Duration: 7hr50min
Aircraft: Airbus 380
Seat: 2A (First Class)

At the door each passenger was greeted by the friendly crew, and as soon as they saw my first class boarding pass they called over another flight attendant to direct me to my seat.


Seat 2A

Before I could even settle in I was welcomed aboard by one of the flight attendants and offered a drink. I went with champagne, which was served with almonds and olives.


Pre-departure beverage


Buddy seat and entertainment system

Shortly thereafter I was offered an amenity kit and pajamas. I already had a pair of large PJs, so asked if I could get a pair of medium PJs for my dad. The flight attendant returned with an extra pair shortly, and insisted I keep both. Score, given that most airlines are very stingy about PJs and amenity kits.


Amenity kit and PJs

As boarding finished up the 15 seat first class cabin had one empty seat, so it was once again a near full load. The captain came on the PA to advise us of our flight time of 7hr30min, and shortly thereafter we began our taxi to the runway.


Taxiing out


More taxiing

After a 10 minute taxi and quick acceleration we were airborne. The A380 really seems to take off in no time, and at least feels to me like it has a shorter roll than the B747 or A340.


Airborne

After watching the SkyCam for about 10 minutes I turned on the entertainment system and decided to watch an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”


Curb Your Enthusiasm


Flight time remaining

A few minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned off and the customer service manager greeted each first class passenger and distributed the menus. He advised me that there was a “tasting menu” on today’s flight, and highly recommended it.

Just a couple of minutes later the captain gave each first class passenger a visit at their seat to introduce himself, tell us about the flight, etc. We talked for about five minutes about the A380, and he invited me to visit the cockpit after the flight. Kudos to the captain for the greeting.


Menu


Menu

Hot towels were quickly distributed, followed by a beverage. I passed on a beverage for now in anticipation of the tasting menu. Qantas’ menus really have an outstanding selection, so while I was tempted by some of the other options, in the end decided on the tasting menu.

The menu read as follows:

Melbourne to Singapore

TASTING MENU
Our Tasting Menu features a selection of eight tasting plates highlighting the finest of Rockpool and Qantas cuisine. A selection of award winning wines will be offered to complement each course. Your Flight Attendant is available to assist you with your selection.

Tartlet of Lobster and Lemon Creme Fraiche

Maggie Beer Pheasant Farm Pate with Caramelised Onions on Sourdough

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan and Croutons

Yamba Prawn Salad with White Beans and Serrano Ham

Snapper Poached in Coconut Milk and Garam Masala, Fine Egg Noodles and Snow Peas

Slow Roasted Cape Grim Beef Sirloin with Anchovy Butter, Baby Carrots and Potato Gratin

Salad of Baby Cos, Radicchio and Frisee with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette

Chocolate Caramel Tart with Creme Fraiche and Almond Praline

Blue, soft and hard cheese, hand selected by Will Studd, Maitre Fromager Calendar Cheese Company served with accompaniments

A selection of Cacao hand made chocolates

DINNER
Our extensive Rockpool designed menu allows you to enjoy a completely personalized dining experience. Your Flight Attendant will be pleased to assist you with selection.

CANAPES

Tartlet of Lobster and Lemon Creme Fraiche

Maggie Beer Pheasant Farm Pate with Caramelised Onions on Sourdough

SALADS AND OTHER THINGS

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan and Croutons

Yamba Prawn Salad with White Beans and Serrano Ham

Salad of Wagyu Bresaolo with Grillen Fennel

LIGHT MEALS

Pan Fried Snapper with Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing and Steamed Vegetables

Pumpkin Gorgonzola Pizzette with Rocket Salad

Big bowl of Porcini Mushroom and Pearl Barley Soup with Gremolata

Moroccan Lamb Pot Pie with Harissa

Our signature Steak Sandwich with Tomato and Chilli Relish

MAIN COURSES

Lentil Moussaka with Red Pepper Sauce and Green Beans

Snapper Poached in Coconut Milk and Garam Masala, Fine Egg Noodles and Snow Peas

Parmesan Crumbed Chicken with Italian Style Coleslaw, Kipfler Potatoes and Aioli

Chinese Barbecue Porm Omelette with Oyster Sauce, Rice and Bok Choy

Slow Roasted Cape Grim Beef Sirloin with Anchovy Butter, Baby Carrots and Potato Gratin

SIDE SALAD

Salad of Baby Cos, Radicchio and Frisee with your choice of dressing

Aged Balsamic and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fresh Lemon Juice and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Palm Sugar Vinaigrette

CHEESE

Blue, soft and hard cheese, hand selected by Will Studd, Maitre Fromager Calendar Cheese Company served with accompaniments

DESSERT

Chocolate Caramel Tart with Creme Fraiche and Almond Praline

Baked Treacle Pie with Roasted Apples and Clotted Cream

Whole or Sliced Seasonal Fruit

Nice Cream Chocolate Coated Raspberry Ice Cream

PETITS FOURS

A selection of Cacao hand made chocolates

Manna from Heaven Jaffa Cake

Candied Lemon Shortbread

And for those of you interested in the wine list, here it is:

WHITE WINE

Tappanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2008
Piccadilly Valley, South Australia

Pewsey Vale Vineyard Pinot Gris 2009
Eden Valley, South Australia

Grossed Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Clare Valley, South Australia

RED WINE

Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2004
McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley, South Australia

Spring Vale Melrose Pinot Noir 2010
Tasmania

Mount Mary Vineyard Quintet Cabernet 2006
Yarra Valley, Victoria

DESSERT WINE

De Bortolli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2007
Riverina, New South Wales

Not too shabby, if you ask me!

One of the things that I love about first class as opposed to business class is that the meal service is an experience as opposed to just a decent meal. And this “tasting menu” on Qantas was quite possibly the best meal experience I’ve ever had on a plane.

The meal started off with a glass of wine (forgive me for not writing down the details) and small plate which made up the first course.


Wine tasting


Tartlet of Lobster and Lemon Creme Fraiche and Maggie Beer Pheasant Farm Pate with Caramelised Onions on Sourdough

After that the meal service got serious, with enough glassware and utensils to cater a US Airways flight (oh, wait…).


Table setup

The next course was a delicious cauliflower soup which was just the right temperature. The meal service was very, very slow, though the execution of each course was flawless. After all, part of the “experience” is not feeling rushed. And the service was also top notch throughout.


Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan and Croutons

Bread was offered with each course as well.


Bread

The next course was the prawn salad with beans and ham. Simply amazing.


Yamba Prawn Salad with White Beans and Serrano Ham

The first main course was served next, which was snapper. It was tasty and just the right size.


Snapper Poached in Coconut Milk and Garam Masala, Fine Egg Noodles and Snow Peas

As I mentioned service was on the slow side (in a good way, though), and as the first main course finished up we were about 1,200 miles into our journey. The first officer came on the PA to advise us that Ayers Rock would be visible from the right of the aircraft in just a couple of minutes.

I loved the fact that he made that announcement, and not only that, but as we passed over the rock they banked right a bit so that all passengers would have the view, even those seated over the wing. Talk about a class act and going above and beyond.

Since I was on the left side of the plane I took a peak out the window of the one empty first class seat on the other side of the aircraft.

Suffice it to say that Ayers Rock is now on my list of places to see!


Ayers Rock


First class aisle

By the time I moved back to my seat the second main course was ready, which was a beef sirloin. Again, all I can say is “wow.”


Slow Roasted Cape Grim Beef Sirloin with Anchovy Butter, Baby Carrots and Potato Gratin

That was served with a side salad.


Salad


Wine tasting

The dessert consisted of a caramel tart, which was also rich.


Chocolate Caramel Tart with Creme Fraiche and Almond Praline

The last course was a cheese plate, which I just nibbled at.


Cheese plate

To finish off the meal I ordered a coffee and White Russian, which were served with a praline.


Coffee

Before anyone calls me names, let me say in my defense that this was literally the biggest meal I’ve ever had. Ever. And probably the best…

Once the meal was finished I was offered a bottle of water, which was placed on my fold out tray.


Bottled water

At this point I lowered the curtains and turned on SkyCam again to see the beautiful sunset.


Sunset

I figured I needed to get a bit of movement, so I headed to the upper deck lounge. One of the other first class passengers went up there as well, and we both sat down on the coach in our PJs. It was kind of funny, because at least a couple of business class passengers walked through the curtain, only to immediately turn around in pure horror when they saw us sitting there in our PJs. 😉

I started talking with the other first class passenger, and had one of those embarrassing moments. You know when you’re on a plane and you sit next to one of those “know it all” types that tells you all about a field that you obviously know much more about, but you’re too modest to admit it? For example, I’ve been on a countless number of United flights where clueless seatmates tell me about how upgrades on United work, the benefits of their status, etc.

Yeah, well this might have been exactly this situation, in reverse. He was Australian and we started talking about our favorite cities, where we were heading, etc. Eventually we got to talking about our favorite cities, and I mentioned Queenstown, New Zealand. I talked about how exciting the approach into the airport was, among other things.

Then we started talking about the career of a pilot. I started telling him that I used to want to be a pilot and had always wanted to work for Cathay Pacific. I told him a bit about their hiring practices, requirements, the fact that they only have widebodies, etc.

After talking to him for about 30 minutes, he finally talks about what he does. He’s in charge of the 737 fleet (which they happen to fly to Queenstown!) for Qantas and worked for Cathay Pacific for 10 years. FML.

So while I think everything I said was factually correct, I was so embarrassed to have been telling him my perspective on the two things he’s probably most knowledgeable about. Once I figured out what he did, we talked for another 90 minutes or so about his job, which was fascinating to hear about.

And I’m sure the question will come up — yes, he was on an ID90 ticket flying on a standby basis, and managed to get first class, though I assume it takes a certain rank/level of seniority to get first class on Qantas. He was awesome to talk to, though. He was continuing on to London, though unfortunately I didn’t see him in the first class cabin on the next flight, which went out full.

The upper deck has a nice self serve area set up with drinks and snacks, including nuts, fruit, truffles, etc.


Self serve area


Snacks

I walked through the massive business class cabin. Fortunately the cabin was dark, or I would have felt a bit conscience in my PJs.


Business class cabin

I then decided to take the rear spiral staircase down to the lower deck.


Rear straircase


Rear staircase

I was surprised to find the rear galley totally empty. I figured it would be crowded given how many coach seats there are and figured people would want to stretch their legs, though I was the only one there. They have a nice self serve drink and snack area there, with some really, really tasty cookies.


Coach self serve area


Coach snacks

The coach cabin was huge, though seats appeared to be fairly comfortable with some of the biggest personal TVs I’ve seen in coach.


Coach

I then decided to get a bit of work done so worked on my laptop for an hour or so.

About 60 minutes before landing the flight attendants came around to see if anyone wanted anything. I wasn’t hungry, though couldn’t help but put at least a bit more of a dent in the menu, given how much I had yet to try.

I decided on the “pizzette,” which it took the crew about 10 minutes to prepare. It was basically a tasty mini-pizza.


Pumpkin Gorgonzola Pizzette with Rocket Salad

At that point we began our gradual descent into Singapore, and I took the opportunity to freshen up (brush my teeth, etc.). By the time I brushed my teeth I didn’t realize we were literally just a few minutes out of Singapore, so I returned to my seat, still in my PJs.


Approaching Singapore

During the final descent I convinced myself it would be a good idea to just stay in my PJs, given that I had another 13 hours of flying ahead of me.

We touched down in Singapore and had a quick taxi to the gate, where the seatbelt sign was immediately turned off.


Short final


Taxiing to gate

Once at the gate I retrieved my bags, still in my PJs. As we waited for the door to open, the flight attendant said to me “you know, you can still change out of those if you want.” Clearly exhaustion, jetlag, and international travel does crazy things to you, since I should have probably taken that as a hint…

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. Awesome report, as usual! I love ALL of the details, the food and other photos and especially the thought of you wandering all around the plane in your PJ’s. Great work Ben – thanks for sharing it with us!

  2. Nice report, Lucky.

    I also like the food on QF premium (J and F) – it is some of, if not the most, innovative food I’ve had in the sky. It does involve more risk (i.e. you either impress people highly or completely disgust them), but I haven’t been disappointed so far by their offerings.

    I’ve only had the experience of the tasting menu once. If you can eat and drink it all, that’s an achievement in itself. I drank a wee bit too much that time…. 🙂

    As for the boarding process, there should be a dedicated bridge for F class. It is not a “straight from terminal” bridge, however; rather, there is a short common section of jetbridge which then splits off into three bridges – one for F (front / first door of main deck), one for Y (second door of main deck) and one for J and W (upper deck). The common section should be wide enough that you can walk alongside the other crowds and head straight to the F section.

    Boarding should also be in 4 lines at least – one of them F dedicated.

    Of course, this is my experience the last time I flew QF A380 F, and this was ex-SYD rather than MEL. The latter may have a different set up / procedures.

  3. @ Suzanne — Thanks!

    @ anat0l — You’re totally right, and that was my experience at the other airports (SIN and SYD). But have a look at picture three above, and you’ll see there was a single jet bridge to the main deck. There’s no jet bridge at door 1L.

  4. Lucky, your next report better include a photo of you wearing the PJs in the lounge! 😉

  5. Great report and awesome detail Ben. Loved reading about you making a fool of yourself to the 737 pilot! LOL

    Just curious Ben, you’ve flown so many airlines first class biz class and experienced so many lounges.

    Where would you say Qantas ranks compared to the BAs, Cathays, Emirates, Qatars, Thais of the world etc.

    Overall, lounges, food, service etc

    I’m curious because most Aussies moan and complain about the quality of QF. But I find them to be up there with the worlds best

    What are your thoughts?

  6. Indeed most Auusies complain about QF. I have three guys from oz who work for e in NY and after a year or so travelling here, they all say, “Maybe we were being a little hard on QF after all.” QF has an easier operating model (far fewer domestic cities) than US-based carriers and a market that gets more paid j travel.

  7. @ Tim — Great question, and I suspect it’s because for many, the grass is always greener on the other side. I feel like Qantas delivers an excellent and consistent product across the board.

    Let’s start with where they shine — the meal service. Hands down, Qantas has the best meals in the sky, as far as I’m concerned. I feel like so many airlines base first class meals around what’s “expensive (like caviar) as opposed to what actually tastes good. Some of the Qantas I had on dishes were the best I’ve had in the air, and probably among the best on the ground too.

    The lounges are great too. The only lounges I’d rank higher are Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal in Frankfurt and Thai’s first class lounge and spa in Bangkok. And keep in mind I didn’t even visit their “flagship” lounge in Sydney.

    The bedding was also the best in the sky, bar none. I literally thought I was in my comfortable bed at home.

    The seats were also awesome, though lots of airlines have great seats.

    Lastly, the service. They were very, very good, though not as attentive as what you’d experience on Singapore, Asiana, etc. Of course that’s a cultural thing, since you can’t really compete with the flight attendants on Asian airlines. As far as “western” flight attendants go, they were among the best, though.

    On the whole, even over a month later, I think Qantas has my favorite first class product, at least on the Airbus 380. I’d take them any day over Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Swiss, Singapore, etc., though it’s a close call.

  8. This part of the trip is absolutely impressive. The A380 looks amazing and the hard and soft product look very impressive. The menu and food make me hungry right now.

  9. Lucky, What kind of bubbLEE does QF serve in F & J? I think you should start posting the beverage menus. I for one am trying to find any airline outside of 9W that offers Dom in J class. Pretty incredible when you consider it.

    Best,
    JRL

  10. @JRL Lucky could probably qualify this correctly, but the last time I flew QF and pretty consistently before that, the J offering is usually Charles Heidsieck or Piper Heidsieck Brut, whilst the F offering is currently my favourite, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1999.

    The J selection I’m not too certain as the flagship ultra long haul might do better than NV selection. But I’m fairly sure I haven’t seen Dom being offered in QF J in recent times.

  11. Coins, Not that I don’t believe you when you say you were sitting in the upper deck lounge in your pajamas… but I’d like to see that photo if you don’t mind. Cough.

  12. @Ben/Lucky

    Thanks for your reply. I agree it’s hard for a western airline to match the service level of Asian carriers. It’s in their culture.

    But glad to hear you think so highly of Qantas.

    Their hard and soft product as you say – seems to be up there with the world’s best.

    Their Frequent Flyer Programme however is another matter. It’s a complete rip off. Look at their mileage chart, and for any given route QF requires people burn (on average) about twice the amount of miles a US carrier would. In Business and First it’s even worse!

    For example you flew MEL-SIN for in Qantas First for 45,000 American Miles. Qantas requires it’s own members to burn 90,000 miles for the exact same route!

    It’s also a lot harder to get to elite status on QF than US carriers. You have to fly a lot more than 25k/50k/100k etc to reach toe same levels on Qantas.

    But perhaps that’s why their product is so good. Qantas and Asian carriers have First Class whereas US carriers have upgrade class.

    I also think Aussies complain about Qantas as they feel ripped off by the fares they charge Aussies travelling abroad.

  13. Stupid question, but, what’s the difference between the tasting menu and the dinner?

    Also, I’d love to see you on a trip containing Singapore, Jet, and Emirates’ first class suites, to see how they compare to each other and to Qantas…

  14. @ Tim, to be fair the USA based FFPs give the best value in terms of earn and burn compared to most of the other FFPs around the world. Mileage amounts are smaller, routing rules are generally more generous and in many cases redemptions are also easier, especially for non-elites. So most of the world is a ‘rip-off’, so to speak.

    One thing to keep in mind also is that QF members flying QF flights get a minimum of 1 point per mile (i.e. even the lowest Economy buckets earn a minimum 1 point per mile flown). A small thing, but for non-premium flyers the difference can add up between crediting an Economy flight to QF vs, say, AA.

    Most Australians don’t have an easy way of racking up AA points (the ‘best’ most of them can do is Amex -> SPG -> AA) aside from flying. Depending on their flying patterns, it may pay for them to credit to AA and get their status accordingly, but in other cases QF can work either equally or better.

    Ditto comment about qualifying for status. There are cases where flying through QF can actually be a lot easier to achieve oneworld Emerald compared to trying to achieve the same on AA. This is due to the differences in how status is accumulated (QF doesn’t use qmiles or segment count). The whole situation is complicated further when you try and consider the benefits of the relevant status levels in AA and QF. Generally AA has a much better value proposition, but it really depends on where you travel and what you can get out of the program.

    @ Andy: the tasting menu is a bit like a degustation, i.e. small amounts of each of the selections is offered, so you can “taste” everything. In practice, in QF F the taster servings are a bit larger than that of a real degustation at a restaurant, and also the time frame is shorter, so you do get full quickly. Now if your idea of a meal is not “sampling” every plate on offer, then you can just pick and choose a la carte as normal.

  15. Lucky: Thanks for the great report!

    Did you consider boarding with Business and then taking the forward internal staircase down to F?

  16. @ Andy Bluebear — I think @anat0l covered it pretty well. I’d also add that a different wine is paired with each course, which isn’t normally the case (though you can always request them otherwise).

    @ Buster — I had thought about it at first, though it hadn’t occurred to me until I was in the jet bridge that they didn’t have a separate jet bridge that divided off into first class, as was the case in Singapore.

  17. Nice report. I’ll be taking a QF A380 in F later this year, which Im looking forward to. Why not just board through the Upper deck with J Class, and walk down the stairs into F??

  18. awesome report as always but the best line of the whole report came at the end of your conversation with the pilot…” he finally talks about what he does….. FML”. I burst out laughing as I would have said the exact same thing…FML 😀 lol

  19. Lucky… you left me hanging on one topic: the visit to the cockpit the captain ordered. I take it you forgot, or decided not to visit?

  20. @ Jordan — Most airlines are pretty “by the book,” in my experience, so I was scared I’d be rejected and then end up even further back in line.

    @ nycflyer75 — Hah, thanks!

    @ Todd — Given that I had forgotten to change out of my PJs, I was a bit embarrassed to visit the cockpit!

  21. Did the pilot really say Ayers Rock & not Uluru? Does Qantas have Coach Class or Economy? Was this written for an American audience? Other than those points, quite an interesting article

  22. “I had waited about 10 minutes beyond the initial boarding call in the lounge to head to the gate, though that only resulted in longer queues. …”

    Hmmm … what you did not know is that at MEL the elevator outside the First class lounge has direct access to the boarding level where the VLA gates (9 & 10) air-bridges connect to the terminal. You could have completely avoided the queues on the departures concourse by using that rather then heading through and down the escalator.

  23. I took flight QF 10 from singapore to melbourne on 2nd july 2011. As I was late to Airport on my way back after sightseeing, I didnot have time to take my Lunch. When AIr crews distributed Dinner, I requested them to give one extra cup Rice with curry which they Obliged. i appreciate their Great hospitality.

  24. Hi, I am University Student, looking into Qantas and the flaws they have as an airline. I came across your travel experience and wanted to know a few things.

    Seeing as a First Class Passenger you were able to board any time you wished. However, on the boarding call was there any call for a particular travel class? (economy, premium-economy)

    If so, who was first?
    If not, was it a free-for-all?

    When boarding, did you have a priority boarding lane?

    Also, in your opinion do feel that you should board with fellow first-class and even business-class passenger?

  25. @ Sam — Yes, they board by travel classes, though that doesn’t stop people from cluttering around the gate. There is a priority boarding lane on Qantas longhaul flights.

  26. Lucky, I came across your review in the archives, and it was interesting to contrast your opinions from several years ago with my own recent experiences in Qantas F. Unlike you, I finished both of my international flights feeling a bit let down.

    My flights were LAX-SYD and return, both in F on the A380. The service was – IMO – rather poor on the LAX-SYD segment, with several lapses by the attendant. Some examples include forgetting to bring dinner items that were ordered, not being attentive to refilling beverages, needing to be asked to make up the bed — all of which were particularly annoying because the guests on the other side of the cabin were getting much better service.

    The return from SYD-LAX was better from a service standpoint, but still not on par with what I’ve experienced on numerous flights in F with BA and EK. And the food? Perhaps I have a bit too much of a relationship with food, but I simply wasn’t wowed. It also appears that Qantas has cut back on the number and variety of the inflight offerings – both wines and food items – as compared to the menus you’ve posted. I found the meals … sadly disappointing.

    Later this year I’ll be back on Emirates for a couple of flights and then my first experience with Cathay, a trip that I’m very much looking forward to. Will I spend my miles to fly QF again? Perhaps, but only if there’s no other acceptable carrier that will get me to my destination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *